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Maintaining Australian Pasture Production in a Warming World
Reference
Cullen, B.R., Eckard, R.J. and Rawnsley, R.P. 2012. Resistance of pasture production to projected climate changes in south-eastern Australia. Crop and Pasture Science 63: 77-86.

Background
The authors write that "climate change projections for southern Australia indicate that the region is likely to become warmer and drier." However, they say "there is considerable variation in the projections from different climate models and emission pathways," noting, for example, that "there is some uncertainty about how rapidly warming will occur" and that "projections for rainfall change vary widely."

What was done
Given the uncertainty in climate change projections from global circulation models, Cullen et al. concluded that "an alternative approach is to explore the sensitivity of agricultural systems to a range of likely future temperature, carbon dioxide and rainfall combinations, thereby creating a three-dimensional surface of response," which is what they thus proceeded to do.

What was learned
Quoting the three Australian researchers, "the simulated changes in pasture production and the approach adopted in this study have highlighted when and where possible, adaptation options may be required." And they say that this approach "clearly demonstrates the resistance of pasture production over a range of climate changes."

What it means
Cullen et al. conclude that for south-eastern Australia, "annual pasture production is resistant to climatic changes of up to 2°C warming," thanks to the collective wisdom of farmers who have learned from experience how to successfully cope with various degrees of temperature and precipitation change, as well as scientists who have studied the subject in considerable detail.

Reviewed 2 January 2013